Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A refresher course in waiting

In my last post, I concluded with a quote from Longfellow which says, "Learn to labor and to wait." I have always loved that particular poem and especially that phrase. We learn to work at whatever our chosen craft or profession might be - generally by serving some kind of internship, being mentored by a more experienced practitioner, or by trial and error. And, of course, we learn to labor by simply doing, over and over again. Whoever first said there is no substitute for experience knew what he was talking about.

Ah, but that second skill, that business of learning to wait, now that is in short supply. Yes, we all wait for many things in life. We wait to grow up, and then we wait to get married and start a family. We wait at the doctor's office, in line at the post office, and for a phone call from a distant relative.

But how many of us have actually "learned" how to wait? That is, how many of us know how to wait with patience, fortitude, hope and in a manner that is helpful or productive? Not too many I would guess from my own experience and observation.

I have never been a particularly patient person, so yesterday was a real test of patience for me. I sat for about seven hours in the jury meeting room at the Sacramento courthouse waiting to be dispatched to one of the numerous courtrooms in that imposing building. That call never came. Again and again, as they called off the names from among the hundred or so crammed into the poorly ventilated space, I waited expectantly to hear my name. Nothing.

I had come prepared, for I had "learned to wait" during prior jury duty summons. I knew to bring a bottle of water and a decent book, to wear comfortable clothes, and in my case, to bring some ibuprofen for the backache I would surely have by midday. I am fairly short and my feet do not easily reach the floor when sitting in the airport style chairs in the meeting room. The constant strain of trying to shift so that at least one foot braces me from sliding off the seat always gives me a backache well before the end of the day. And so I waited.

Being a life long people-watcher helped to pass the time. I observed how others chose to wait. Some fidgeted constantly, bouncing legs or feet; some played with their earrings, adjusted their ties, or groomed themselves in small mirrors. A few sighed loudly and often, as though this were a trial of the first order, no pun intended. Briefcases, laptops and ipods were in plentiful supply, but could not seem to soothe the antsy crowd.

Please bear in mind that this was not tough duty, per se. We were given two twenty-minute breaks before 11:00 a.m. and then excused for a two-hour lunch break. One of the two women, who were the court employees charged with managing the day's jury pool, did her best to lighten the mood in the room, which could only be described as equal parts irritation and boredom. She thanked us - several times - for taking the time to appear, for bearing with the congested parking situation, and for supporting the system by which we could all hope to get a fair hearing, should we ever need one.

She was cheerful, but not smarmy, and she was helpful in offering clear directions for those being sent to the nether wings of the building. She reminded me a lot of the creative flight attendants at Southwest Airlines.

Her co-worker, by contrast, was terse, glum and seemingly as bored as many of the prospective jurors. I could not help but wonder how her team mate remained so upbeat when partnered with this gloomy-Gus day after day. Talk about needing some patience - and thus, we waited.

For believers, it can sometimes seem that the most difficult waiting we do is "on the Lord." Seemingly unanswered prayers pile up and we wonder whether He is listening. When will our name be called? But perhaps, part of the problem is how we are waiting. We wait with irritation, grumbling that we had really expected better from God than this. We wait with pride, wondering when we are going to "get our due." And possibly worst of all, we wait in fear, that He has forgotten or overlooked us. But quite the opposite is true.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion, For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Isaiah 30:18

I don't know about you, but even with yesterday's refresher course in waiting, I still have some things to learn about waiting effectively. But here is an amazing thing. The God of the universe is also waiting. He is waiting on us to listen to Him, to talk with Him and to allow Him to meet us in the waiting room of His grace. So if you will excuse me, I think I have some waiting to do. And I need to learn more about how to do it with a good heart attitude. If you are waiting, too, then you are already blessed. "Blessed are all who wait for him." Hope you have a good day.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa - now that puts it in perspective - God waiting on us. Yikes. Great post!